It’s been a week of talking about opportunities for Polk County’s football team.
There’s the start of Western Highlands Conference play, the point of the season when everyone has a spotless 0-0 league record and dreams of a WHC banner. Friday’s 7:30 p.m. kickoff at Owen will begin Polk County’s quest to earn its first league crown since 2013.
And there are the opportunities that the Wolverines want to create on the field to make that league title chase possible. In losses at Pisgah and East Rutherford, Polk County’s offense hasn’t produced as many scoring chances as it would like in part because it hasn’t been able to run as many plays as it would like, a trend that head coach Bruce Ollis hopes to see reversed beginning this week.
“We would like to run 65 to 70 plays a game,” Ollis said. “We’ve been down around 50 plays. That’s 15-18 fewer opportunities to have explosive plays than we would like.
“What we’ve got to do on offense is get our swagger back. We were very explosive the first four games, and not so much the last two. Our opponents have certainly had something to do with that, but we’ve also lacked execution at times. In order to be successful, we may need to hit a lot of singles and not as many home runs.”
A winless Owen team may offer an opportunity for Polk County to steady its offensive ship, but Ollis has been in enough Polk County-Owen tussles over the years to know that winning in the Swannanoa Valley is never an easy task, especially on Homecoming night for the Warhorses.
With several players transferring during the summer, including standout running back Sidney Gibbs, Owen has spent much of its non-conference schedule simply looking to find its identity, especially on offense. Though routed last week 42-7 against Franklin, a 27-22 loss the week before at Brevard showed that the Warhorses are beginning to make progress.
“We’re playing against a team that hasn’t won a football game, but I’m sure Coach (Nathan) Padgett is telling his players that this is a new season as well,” Ollis said about the start of conference play. “Owen is always a formidable foe. They’re a physical football team and they play hard. It’s a classic Owen offense and they do some of the same things they’ve always done. They run the ball right at you and use play-action passes.
“I think we’ll get their best effort. I expect them to play awfully hard.”
Senior backs Antonio McDowell (44 rushes, 248 yards) and Kristian Michels (63-244) lead the Owen offense, with quarterback Audun Meyers throwing for almost 100 yards per game (37-74, 496 yards, 7 TDs, 7 INTs). The Warhorses have just one rushing touchdown on offense thus far this season.
Undefeateds Mitchell and Mountain Heritage (who meet this week in Burnsville) appear to be the teams to beat this season in the WHC, and Polk County will have two league games to build momentum before facing that duo in back-to-back weeks.
Owen, Avery, Mitchell, Mountain Heritage, Madison – those teams are the Wolverines’ sole focus now, Polk County looking only forward in its drive for a conference championship.
“The thing we always tell our players is that we divide the season into four quadrants,” Ollis said. “Fall camp and the preseason is the first, then you’ve got your non-conference schedule, then your conference schedule is the third quadrant and, hopefully, you’re fortunate enough to be in the playoffs for that final part.
“I’d like to be 6-0 now, like any coach would be. But even though we’re 4-2, we have a lot to be thankful for and we have accomplished a great deal. There’s no reason to think we can’t be a factor in the conference hunt. I think our players are excited about the prospects of conference play.”